written by Dawn Duncan Harrell
“Before, I was violent. I beat my wife.” Cassien launches into his story. “I’d take all the money, 5000 Burundian francs, and buy drink.”
Five thousand “franBu” would buy him a mere half-pint at Red Cow. With 5000 BF, his wife could feed their family of nine for four days.
Cassien sits outside his house, surrounded by his corn crop, which he’s grown on disputed family lands. His half-brother took him to court, contending that since Cassien was born to a woman that their father did not marry, he should inherit nothing. For many years, Cassien took out his frustration on his wife.
“I was proud to make her angry,” he says. “But no more.”
How does a man, who’s been stealing his wife’s earnings to drink, depriving his family of food, and beating his wife for years, change?
According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, simply discovering a new way of doing things can trigger transformation (When Helping Hurts, 208). Cassien’s neighbor invited him and his wife to a Families for Life small group and Cassien began to see a new way of “doing” marriage.
For two months Cassien and his wife met with other couples in a small group, facilitated by their neighbors. Using the Families for Life curriculum, they discussed themes such as
Because they lived close by, Cassien could also watch the peer-educator couple practicing these new ideas in their own home.
As Cassien reflected on the curriculum and his neighbors’ practical application of it, he made a decision to try it himself and took action (Corbet and Fikkert, 207–208).
“Did you change all at once or over time?” wonders a visitor.
“I was surprised,” answers Cassien. “It’s the first time I realized I was going in the wrong way. I changed over time.”
“Now when someone else resists change, how do you respond?”
“It’s not easy realizing change in other families,” agrees Cassien.
His neighbor adds that people don’t respond immediately in the meetings, but they begin to think about the new ideas. He and his wife simply persist in offering the curriculum and their own lives as a demonstration.
In 2013, fifteen churches in Cassien’s county each contributed a couple to be trained in Families for Life. Cassien’s neighbors were one of these fifteen. Early in 2014, each couple was already spreading the ideas to their own neighborhoods through small groups.
By 2017, over 500 couples in Cassien’s county alone will go through the course. With Colonial Church’s support, World Relief will continue to provide the curriculum and the initial training, but church people and their neighbors are the ones who will transform their county.
“We go together now,” confirms Jacqueline, Cassien’s wife. “It’s the same as my husband told it. He was sick. Now he’s healed. Now there’s peace and communication in the house.”
“Do other women in the field see a difference?” asks the visitor.
“Yes. There are people who knew I was beaten. They see the change.”
“What do they say?”
“They ask, ‘How does the change come?’ Then I tell them about the classes.”